Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israel against selling arms to the Ukraine in response to Russia’s decision to green-light the sale of an advanced missile defense system to Iran. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the deal, saying it would only bolster Iran’s regional aggressions.
“It’s the Israeli leadership’s choice. It’s their right to do what they think is appropriate. If (the arms they choose to sell) are lethal weapons, I think it will be counterproductive. It will only lead to another round of conflicts, to a rise in the number of victims, and the outcome will be the same,” Putin reportedly told state-run media Saturday.
Netanyahu also addressed the issue Sunday, saying “Israel is seriously concerned by Russia’s supplying Iran with S-300 missiles, while Iran is constantly increasing aggression in the region.”
“Israel also views with severity the fact that these aggressions were not noted in the framework nuclear agreement with Iran and that the (final) deal is not conditioned on their end,” he continued.
The two have already spoken on the issue, with Netanyahu’s office saying he called Putin last Tuesday to protest Russia’s planned delivery of the S-300 air defense missile systems to the Islamic republic. The Kremlin confirmed the call in a statement from the same day.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office said he “expressed Israel’s dismay at the decision… (and) told President Putin that this step will only increase Iran’s aggression in the region and will destabilize security in the Middle East.”
In response, “Vladimir Putin explained the rationale for the decision in the current context and highlighted the fact that due to their tactical and technical characteristics, S-300 have a purely defensive significance and pose no threat to Israel,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Israeli military officials consider the Russian arming of Iran an additional obstacle before any potential military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Netanyahu’s office said he told Putin the move would only increase Iran’s aggression in the region and undermine security in the Middle East.
Israel says the Russian announcement is a direct result of the international community’s framework nuclear deal with Iran. Israel vehemently opposes any deal with Iran that does not dismantle the military capability of its nuclear program.
US Secretary of State John Kerry also raised concerns with his Russian counterpart over Russia’s decision, the White House said at the time. The US military echoed the statement, with Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren saying “Our opposition to these sales is long and public. We believe it’s unhelpful,” he told reporters.
Iran for its part defended the move, with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan saying the decision could lead to an expansion of cooperation and help stability in the region, Iranian state media said.